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Keywords:

  • allometric scaling;
  • attack rate;
  • food chain;
  • functional response;
  • handling time;
  • metabolic theory;
  • stability

Abstract

1. In community and population ecology, there is a chronic gap between the classic Eltonian ecology describing patterns in abundance and body mass across species and ecosystems and the more process oriented foraging ecology addressing interactions and quantitative population dynamics. However, this dichotomy is arbitrary, because body mass also determines most species traits affecting foraging interactions and population dynamics.

2. In this review, allometric (body-mass dependent) scaling of handling times and attack rates are documented, whereas body-mass effects on Hill exponents (varying between hyperbolic type II and sigmoid type III functional responses) and predator interference coefficients are lacking. This review describes how these allometric relationships define a biological plausible parameter space for population dynamic models.

3. Consistent with the classic Eltonian description, species co-existence in consumer-resource models and tri-trophic food chains is restricted to intermediate consumer-resource body-mass ratios. Allometric population dynamic models allow understanding the processes of energy limitation and unstable dynamics leading to this restriction. Complex food webs are stabilized by high predator-prey body-mass ratios, which are consistent with those found in natural ecosystems. These high body-mass ratios yield positive diversity-stability and complexity-stability relationships thus supporting the classic picture of ecosystem stability.

4. Allometric-trophic network models, based on body mass and trophic information from ecosystems, bridge the gap between Eltonian community patterns and process-oriented foraging ecology and provide a new means to describe the dynamics and functioning of natural ecosystems.